Postdoc position: Global History/Material Culture/Violence Studies/Human-Animal Studies

The Department of History at the University of Basel, Switzerland, invites applications for a postdoctoral position in a global history project led by Prof. Dr. Marie Muschalek (principal investigator, PI), to be filled as of April 1st, 2025 or by agreement.
The project Killing to Keep – Violent Field Practices and Natural History in the Age of Empire funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, explores the life-worlds of nature experts who killed animals in order to keep and study them in the long nineteenth century. Team members will research the practices, people, and objects of this endeavor in multiple places in the world:
Case study 1: Birds in the tropical dry and moist forests of Northern South America
Case study 2: Fish and mollusks in the shallow and deep waters of the Southwestern Pacific
Case study 3: Large mammals in the mixed wood and grasslands of Southern Africa
We seek researchers interested in: 1) daily practices in the field, manual skills and techniques of capturing, shooting, skinning, and preserving animals, 2) the men and women, indigenous and intruder alike, involved in the business of collecting animals-turned-specimens, and/or 3) the specimens, trophies, and marketable commodities they produced. Our goal is to account for the complexities of human curiosity and the the many different and culturally specific histories of violence against nonhuman and human life within the broader framework of colonial subjugation and its politics of difference.

Your position
Material Genealogies of Animal Specimens: Science, Art & Craftsmanship
As a postdoctoral researcher you will engage in uncovering naturalist field practices by working closely on the collected artefacts themselves, that is, on a selection of specimens with provenance from one of the geographical foci of the overall project. Paying attention to the different materials, surface textures and interiors, colors, and any traces of handling, you will seek to understand violent practices of humans towards other animals as an activity which connected science with art, material techniques and craftsmanship with intellectual thought processes and knowledge production.

You will be expected to

  • conduct independent research and complete two peer-reviewed articles/ book chapters or a short monograph within the funding period;
  • actively participate in advancing the project's overall research goals, collaborate closely with your team mates;
  • help with administrative tasks, conference organization, communication tasks, webpage content management.

You will be encouraged to

  • take on a co-advising role for one of the project's two doctoral students, teach courses;
  • act as liaison with colleagues in other disciplines at the University of Basel and beyond, notably in Art History, Media Studies, Cultural Anthropology,
  • work closely with natural history museums.

Your profile

  • You must hold a PhD (or equivalent) in Art History, Material Culture or Museum Studies, or a related discipline.
  • You must be fluent in English, our team's working language. Additional language proficiencies relevant to your work package are very welcome.
  • You should have expertise in working with natural history specimens and bring some practical skills with digital tools for handling museum collections.
  • You should have some experience working in mid-size research teams and be eager to help the PI shape the team's work culture and the overall project goals.

We offer you

  • A fully funded postdoctoral position (4 years) at the History Department at the University of Basel, Switzerland.
  • A motivated, interdisciplinary team that will support your ideas, research, and career in a stimulating, welcoming and multicultural environment.
  • Salary and social benefits are provided according to Swiss standards and University of Basel rules.

Application / Contact

Please submit your complete application documents including a letter of motivation, CV, publications list, relevant diplomas and PhD certificate, sample of writing (max. 10 pages), contact details of two references. 

  • Application deadline is September 15th, 2024.
  • All applications must be submitted through the University of Basel employment portal.
  • Interviews will be held in person or via Zoom on October 15th, 2024.
  • The expected starting date is April 1st, 2025. 

If you have any questions, please contact Prof. Dr. Marie Muschalek. You can also find out more about us at

Department of History at the University of Basel
Place of work
Application deadline